CANADA – His bags haven’t even arrived yet in Ottawa, but Israel’s new ambassador to Canada, Rafi Barak, has already gotten straight to work.
On Wednesday evening, Barak participated in a conference call that the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs hosted that featured Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, who was recently honored by UN Watch for his work on human rights and support of Israel. In the call, Barak echoed the trepidation of his fellow Israeli diplomats over the recent interim agreement with Iran.
“As my prime minister said, instead of a historic agreement, we feel it’s a historic mistake,” Barak said.
He said Israel was concerned about the Iranian regime’s conduct in five areas: its nuclear program, its 400 missiles that can reach the eastern Mediterranean Sea, its support of terrorism, its involvement in propping up the Syrian regime and its general attitude towards human rights.
“There are a lot of question marks about the future,” Barak said. “We are concerned that the sanctions were having a positive effect and we should have waited a bit before lifting [them].”
The big question for Israel about the upcoming agreement six months down the road, he said, is what the other superpowers are envisioning; what their redlines are and what their expectations are. The fact that they allowed the Iranian uranium enrichment to happen despite numerous UN security council resolutions is “concerning,” Barak said.
Baird expressed similar concerns, and said he remained “skeptical” about the effectiveness of the current interim agreement.
“We are a country that is obviously deeply concerned, not just about the nuclear program, or the spread of the weaponization program, but also, their human rights record is of significant concern,” Baird said of Canada, reiterating its support for a diplomatic solution. “No one more than Canada would like to see this deal be successful... But we are deeply skeptical of Iran’s intention in this regard.”
Baird said Canada would be “working closely with our allies” and the International Atomic Energy Association to “ensure [Iran’s] commitment [to the agreement] is categorically respected.”
“No one more than I would like to have my skepticism proven wrong,” Baird said. “Now is an opportunity for the leadership in Tehran to prove skeptics wrong.”
Two other experts on the call, Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, both expressed similar skepticism over Iran’s intentions in the coming six months.
Fogel, a Canadian, called on his government to maintain the sanctions on Iran.
“The P5+1 [the negotiating countries] have confused inducements with incentives,” Fogel said. “The sanctions regime was an incentive for Iran to negotiate.”
Dubowitz said that “the Geneva agreement’s real flaw is, it fails to confront Iran’s weaponization research,” and added that the world powers had put far too much trust in Iran’s ability to implement all the conditions and police itself.
“Tehran surrendered little in terms of the nuclear, and gained much economically.
It’s all ‘trust,’ and literally next to no ‘verify,’” he said.
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